Read CHAPTER IX of German Culture Past and Present , free online book, by Ernest Belfort Bax, on


We have in the preceding chapters sought to give a general view of the social life, together with the inner political and economic movements, of Germany during that closing period of the Middle Ages which is generally known as the era of the Reformation. With the definite establishment of the Reformation and of the new political and economic conditions that came with it in many of the rising States of Germany, the Middle Ages may be considered as definitely coming to an end, notwithstanding that, of course, a considerable body of mediaeval conditions of social, political, and economic life continued to survive all over Europe, and certainly not least in Germany.

We have now to take a general and, so to say, panoramic view embracing three centuries and a half, dating from approximately the middle of the sixteenth century to the present time. Our presentation, owing to exigencies of space, will necessarily take the form of a mere sketch of events and general tendencies, but a sketch that will, we hope, be sufficient to connect periods and to enable the reader to understand better than before the forces that have built up modern Germany and have moulded the national character. In this long period of more than three centuries there are two world-historic events, or rather series of events, which stand out in bold relief as the causes which have moulded Germany directly, and the whole of Europe indirectly, up to the present day. These two epoch-making historical factors are (1) the Thirty Years’ War and (2) the Rise of the Prussian Monarchy.

Owing to the success of Protestantism, with its two forms of Lutheranism and Calvinism in various German territories, the friction became chronic between Catholic and Protestant interests throughout the length and breadth of Central Europe. The Emperor himself was chosen, as we know, by three ecclesiastical electors, the Archbishops of Koeln, Trier, and Mainz, and by four princes, the Pfalzgraf, called in English the Elector Palatine, the Markgraves of Saxony and Brandenburg, and the King of Bohemia. The princes and other potentates, owing immediate allegiance to the empire alone, were practically independent sovereigns. The Reichstag, instituted in the fifteenth century, attendance at which was strictly limited to these immediate vassals of the empire, had proved of little effect. This was shown when in the middle of the sixteenth century Protestantism had established itself in the favour of the mass of the German peoples. It was vetoed by the Reichstag, with its powerful contingent of ecclesiastical members. Of course here the economic side of the question played a great part. The ecclesiastical potentates and those favourable to them dreaded the spread of Protestantism in view of the secularization of religious domains and fiefs. This, notwithstanding that there were not wanting bishops and abbots themselves who were not indisposed, as princes of the empire, to appropriate the Church lands, of which they were the trustees, for their own personal possessions. After a short civil war an arrangement was come to at the Treaty of Passau in 1552, which was in the main ratified by the Reichstag held at Augsburg in 1555 (the so-called Peace of Augsburg); but the arrangement was artificial and proved itself untenable as a permanent instrument of peace.

During the latter part of the sixteenth century two magnates of the empire, the Duke of Bavaria on the Catholic side and the Calvinist, Christian of Anhalt, on the Protestant, played the chief rôle, the Lutheran Markgrave of Saxony taking up a moderate position as mediator. Of the Reichstag of Augsburg it should be said that it had ignored the Calvinist section of the Protestant party altogether, only recognizing the Lutheran. In 1608 the Protestant Union, which embraced Lutherans and Calvinists alike, was founded under the leadership of Christian of Anhalt. It was most powerful in Southern Germany. This was countered immediately by the foundation under Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, of a Catholic League. The friction, which was now becoming acute, went on increasing till the actual outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War in 1618. The signal for the latter was given by the Bohemian revolution in the spring of that year.

The Thirty Years’ War, as it is termed, which was really a series of wars, naturally falls into five distinct periods, each representing in many respects a separate war in itself. The first two years of the war (1618-20) is occupied with the Bohemian revolt against the attempt of the Emperor to force Catholicism upon the Bohemian people and with its immediate consequences. It was accentuated by the attempt of the Emperor Matthias to compel them to accept the Archduke Ferdinand as King. This attempt was countered through the election by the Bohemians of the Pfalzgraf, Friedrich V (the son-in-law of James I of England), who was called the Winter King from the fact that his reign lasted only during the winter months; for though the Protestant Union, led by Count Thurn, had won several victories in 1618 and even threatened Vienna, the Austrian power was saved by Tilly and the Catholic League which came to its rescue. Many of the Protestant States, moreover, were averse to the Palatine Friedrich’s acceptance of the Bohemian crown. The Bohemian movement was ultimately crushed by a force sent from Spain, under the Spanish general Spinola. The final defeat took place at the battle of the White Hill, near Prague, November 8, 1620.

The second period of the war was concerned with the attempt of the Catholic Powers to deprive Friedrich of his Palatine dominions. Here Count Mansfeld, with his mercenary army of free-lances, aided by Christian of Brunswick and others on the side of Friedrich and the Protestants, defeated Tilly in 1622. But later on Tilly and the Imperialists by a series of victories conquered the Palatinate, which was bestowed upon Maximilian of Bavaria. Mansfeld, notwithstanding that he had some successes later in the year 1622, could not effectually redeem the situation, Brunswick’s army being entirely routed by Tilly in the following year at the battle of Stadtlohn, which virtually ended this particular campaign.

The third period of the war, from 1624 to 1629, is characterized by the intervention of the Powers outside the immediate sphere of German or Imperial interests. France, under Richelieu, became concerned at the growing power of the Hapsburgs, while James I of England began to show anxiety at his son-in-law’s adverse fortunes, though without achieving any successful intervention. The chief feature of this campaign was the entry into the field of Christian IV of Denmark with a powerful army to join Mansfeld and Christian of Brunswick in invading the Imperial and Austrian territories. But the savageries and excesses of Mansfeld’s troops had disgusted and alienated all sides. It was at this time that Wallenstein, Duke of Friedland, was appointed general of the Imperial troops, and soon after succeeded in completely routing Mansfeld at the battle of Dessau Bridge in 1626. Four months later Tilly completely defeated Christian IV and his Danes at Lutter. Wallenstein, on his side, followed up his success, driving Mansfeld into Hungary. Mansfeld, in spite of some fugitive successes in the Austrian dominions in the course of his retreat, was compelled by Wallenstein to evacuate Hungary, shortly after which he died. The campaign ended with the Peace of Lubeck in 1629.

The action of the Emperor Ferdinand in attempting to enforce the restitution of Church lands in North Germany was the proximate cause of the next great campaign, which constitutes the fourth period of the Thirty Years’ War (1630-36). The immediate occasion was, however, Wallenstein’s seizure of certain towns in Mecklenburg, over which he claimed rights by Imperial grant two years before. This, which may be regarded as the greatest period of the Thirty Years’ War, was characterized by the appearance on the scene of Gustavus Adolphus, the Swedish King. He was not in time, however, to prevent the sacking of Magdeburg by the troops of Tilly and Poppenheim. The former, nevertheless, was defeated by the Swedes at the important battle of Breitenfeld in 1631. The following year the Imperial army was again defeated on the Lach. Thereupon Gustavus occupied Muenchen, though he was subsequently compelled by Wallenstein to evacuate the city. The last great victory of Gustavus was at Luetzen in 1632, at which battle the great leader met his death. Wallenstein, who was now in favour of a policy of peace and political reconstruction, was assassinated in 1634 with the connivance of the Emperor. On September 6th of the same year the Protestant army, under Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, sustained an overwhelming defeat at Noerdlingen, and the Peace of Prague the following year ended the campaign.

The fifth period, from 1636 to 1648, has, as its central interest, the active intervention of France in the Central European struggle. The Swedes, notwithstanding the death of their King, continued to have some notable successes, and even approached to within striking distance of Vienna. But Richelieu now became the chief arbiter of events. The French generals Conde and Turenne invaded Germany and the Netherlands. Victories were won by the new armies at Rocroi, Thionville, and at Noerdlingen, but Vienna was not captured. The Imperial troops were, however, again defeated at Zumarshauen by Conde, who also repelled an attempted diversion in the shape of a Spanish invasion of France at the battle of Lens in the spring of 1648. The Thirty Years’ War was finally ended in October of the same year at Muenster, by the celebrated Treaty of Westphalia.

The above is a skeleton sketch in a few words of the chief features of that long and complicated series of diplomatic and military events known to history as the Thirty Years’ War.

The Thirty Years’ War had far-reaching and untold consequences on Germany itself and indirectly on the course of modern civilization generally. For close upon a generation Central Europe had been ravaged from end to end by hostile and plundering armies. Rapine and destruction were, for near upon a third of the century, the common lot of the Germanic peoples from north to south and from east to west. Populations were as helpless as sheep before the brutal, criminal soldiery, recruited in many cases from the worst elements of every European country. The excesses of Mansfeld’s mercenary army in the earlier stages of the war created widespread horror. But the defeat and death of Mansfeld brought no alleviation. The troops of Wallenstein proved no better in this respect than those of Mansfeld. On the contrary, with every year the war went on its horrors increased, while every trace of principle in the struggle fell more and more into the background. Everywhere was ruin.

The population became by the time the war had ended a mere fraction of what it was at the opening of the seventeenth century. Some idea of the state of things may be gathered from the instance of Augsburg, which during its siege by the Imperialists was reduced from 70,000 to 10,000 inhabitants. What happened to the great commercial city of the Fuggers was taking place on a scale greater or less, according to the district, all over German territory. We read of towns and villages that were pillaged more than a dozen times in a year. This terrific depopulation of the country, the reader may well understand, had vast results on its civilization. The whole great structure of Mediaeval and Renaissance Germany its literature, art, and social life was in ruins. At the close of the seventeenth century the old German culture had gone and the new had not yet arisen. But of this we shall have more to say in the next chapter. For the present we are chiefly concerned to give a brief sketch of the second great epoch-making event, or rather train of events, which conditioned the foundation and development of modern Germany. We refer, of course, to the rise of the Prussian monarchy.

We should premise that the Prussians are the least German of all the populations of what constitutes modern Germany. They are more than half Slavs. In the early Middle Ages the Mark of Brandenburg, the centre and chief province of the modern Prussian State, was an outlying offshoot of the mediaeval Holy Roman Empire of the German nation, surrounded by barbaric tribes, Slav and Teuton. The chief Slav people were the Borussians, from which the name “Prussian” was a corruption. The first outstanding historic fact concerning these Baltic lands is that a certain Adalbert, Bishop of Prague, at the end of the tenth century went north on a mission of enterprise for converting the Prussian heathen. The neighbouring Christian prince, the Duke of Poland, who had presumably suffered much from incursions of these pagan Slavs, offered him every encouragement. The adventure ended, however, before long in the death of Adalbert at the hands of these same pagan Slavs.

The first indication of the existence of a Mark of Brandenburg with its Markgraves is in the eleventh century. There is, however, little definite historical information concerning them. The first of these Markgraves to attract attention was Albrecht the Bear, one of the so-called Ascanian line, the family hailing from the Harz Mountains. Albrecht was a remarkable man for his time in every way. Under him the Markgravate of Brandenburg was raised to be an electorate of the empire. The Markgrave thus became a prince of the empire. It was Albrecht the Bear who first introduced a limited measure of peace and order into the hitherto anarchic condition of the Mark and its adjacent territories. The Ascanian line continued till 1319, and was followed by a period of political anarchy and disturbance, until finally Friedrich, Count of Hohenzollern, acquired the electorate, and became known as the Elector Friedrich I. Meanwhile the Order of the Teutonic Knights, who earlier began their famous crusade against the Borussian heathens, had established themselves on the territories now known as East and West Prussia. In spite of this fact and of the for long time dominant power of their Polish neighbours, the Hohenzollern rulers continued to acquire increased power and fresh territories.

At the Reformation Albrecht, a scion of the Hohenzollern family, who had been elected Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, adopted Protestantism and assumed the title of Duke of Prussia. Finally, in 1609, the then Elector of Brandenburg, John Sigismund, through his marriage with Ann, daughter and heiress of Albrecht Friedrich, Duke of Prussia, came into possession of the whole of Prussia proper, together with other adjacent territories. The Prussian lands suffered much through the Thirty Years’ War during the reign of John Sigismund’s successor, George Wilhelm. But the latter’s son, Friedrich Wilhelm, the so-called Great Elector, succeeded by his ability in repairing the ravages the war had made and raising the electorate immensely in political importance. He left at his death, in 1688, the financial condition of the country in a sound state, with an effective army of 38,000 men. Friedrich I, who followed him, held matters together and got Prussia promoted to the rank of a kingdom in 1701. His son, Friedrich Wilhelm I, by rigid economies succeeded in raising the financial condition of the kingdom to a still higher level. The military power of the monarchy he also developed considerably, and is famous in history for his mania for tall soldiers.

We now come to the real founder of the Prussian monarchy as a great European Power, Friedrich Wilhelm I’s son, who succeeded his father in 1740 as Friedrich II, and who is known to history as Friedrich the Great.

Friedrich no sooner came to the throne than he started on an aggressive expansionist policy for Prussia. The opportunity presented itself a few months after his accession by the dispute as to the Pragmatic Sanction and Maria Theresa’s right to the throne of Austria. In the two wars which immediately followed, the Prussian army overran the whole of Silesia, and the peace of 1745 left the Prussian King in possession of the entire country. East Friesland had already been absorbed the year before on the death of the last Duke without issue. In spite of the exhaustion of men and money in the two Silesian wars, Friedrich found himself ready with both men and money eleven years later, in 1756, to embark upon what is known as the Seven Years’ War. Though without acquiring fresh territory by this war, the gain in prestige was so great that the Prussian monarchy virtually assumed the hegemony of North Germany, becoming the rival of Austria for the domination of Central Europe, the position in which it remained for more than a century afterwards. Nevertheless, after this succession of wars the condition of the country was deplorable. It was obvious that the first thing to do was the work of internal resuscitation. The extraordinary ability and energy of the King saved the internal situation. Agriculture, industry, and commerce were re-established and reorganized. It was now that the cast-iron system of bureaucratic administration, where not actually created, was placed on a firm foundation. But in external affairs Prussia continued to earn its character as the robber State of Europe par excellence.

In 1772 Friedrich joined with Austria in the first partition of Poland, acquiring the whole of West Prussia as his share. A few years later Friedrich formed an anti-Austrian league of German princes, under Prussian leadership, which was the first overt sign of the conflict for supremacy in Germany between Prussia and Austria, which lasted for wellnigh a century. By the time of his death August 7, 1786 Friedrich had increased Prussian territory to nearly 75,000 square miles and between five and six millions of population.

Under Friedrich’s nephew, Friedrich Wilhelm II, while the rigour of bureaucratic administration, controlled by a monarchical absolutism, continued and was even accentuated, the absence of the able hand of Friedrich the Great soon made itself apparent. As regards external policy, however, Prussia, while allowing territories on the left bank of the Rhine to go to France, eagerly saw to the increase of her own dominions in the east to the extent of nearly doubling her superficial area by her participation in the second and third partitions of Poland, which took place in 1783 and 1795 respectively. These external successes, or rather acts of spoliation, were, notwithstanding, counter-balanced at home by a degeneracy alike of the civil bureaucracy and of the army. The country internally, both as regards morale and effectiveness, had sunk far below its level under Friedrich the Great. This showed itself during the great Napoleonic wars, when Prussia had to undergo more than one humiliation at the hands of Buonaparte, culminating in October 1806 with the collapse of the Prussian armies at Jena and Auerstaedt. The entry of Napoleon in triumph into Berlin followed. At the Peace of Tilsit, in 1807, Friedrich-Wilhelm had to sign away half his kingdom and to consent to the payment of a heavy war indemnity, pending which the French troops occupied the most important fortresses in the country.

Following upon this moment of deepest national humiliation comes the period of the Ministers Stein and Hardenberg, of the enthusiastic adjurations to patriotism of Fischer and others, and of the activity of the “League of Virtue” (Tugendbund). It is difficult to understand the enthusiasm that could be aroused for the rehabilitation of an absolutist, bureaucratic, and militarist State, such as Prussia was a State in which civil and political liberty was conspicuous by its absence. But the fact undoubtedly remains that the men in question did succeed in pumping up a strong patriotic feeling and desire to free the country from the yoke of the foreigner, even if that only meant increased domestic tyranny. It must be admitted, however, that as a matter of fact not inconsiderable internal reforms were owing to the leading men of this time. Stein abolished serfdom, and in some respects did away with the legal distinction of classes, thereby paving the way for the rise of the middle class, which at that time meant a progressive step. He also conferred rights of self-government upon municipalities. Hardenberg inaugurated measures intended to ameliorate the condition of the peasants, while Wilhelm von Humboldt established the thorough if somewhat mechanical education system which was subsequently extended throughout Germany. He also helped to found the University of Berlin in 1809.

But at the same time the curse of Prussia militarism was riveted on the people through the reorganization of the Prussian army by those two able military bureaucrats, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. In 1813 Prussia concluded at Kalicsh an alliance with Russia, which Austria joined. In the war which followed Prussia was severely strained by losses in men and money. But at the Congress of Vienna the Prussian kingdom received back nearly, but not quite, all it lost in 1807. The acquirement, however, of new and valuable territories in Westphalia and along the Rhine, besides Thuringia and the province of Saxony, more than compensated for the loss of certain Slav districts in the east, as thereby the way was prepared for the ultimate despotism of the Prussian King over all Germany. The success of Prussian diplomacy in enslaving these erstwhile independent German lands in 1815 was crucial for the subsequent direction of Prussian policy.

It is time now to return once more to the internal conditions in the Prussian State now dominant over a large part of Northern Germany. A Constitution had been more than once talked of, but the despotism with its bureaucratic machinery had remained. Now, after the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars and the re-drawing of the Prussian frontier lines by the peace of 1815, the matter assumed an urgency it had not had before. Following upon proclamations and promises, a patent was addressed to the new Saxon provinces granting a national Landtag, or Diet, for the whole country. The drawing up of the Constitution thus proclaimed in principle gave rise to heated conflicts. There was, as yet, no proletariat proper in Prussia, and for that matter hardly any in the rest of Germany. The handicraft system of production, and even the mediaeval guild system, slightly modified, prevailed throughout the country. The middle class proper was small and unimportant, and hence Liberalism, the theoretical expression of that class, only found articulate utterance through men of the professions.

The new Prussian territories in the west were largely tinctured with progressive ideas originating in the French Revolution, while the east was dominated by reactionary feudal landowners, the notorious Junker class a class special to East Prussian territories, including the eastern portion of the Mark of Brandenburg whom the moderate Conservative Minister Stein himself characterized as “heartless, wooden, half-educated people, only good to turn into corporals or calculating-machines.” This class then, as ever since, opposed an increase of popular control and the progress of free institutions with might and main. Friction arose between the Government and Liberal gymnastic societies and students’ clubs. This culminated in the festival on the Wartburg in October 1818, when a bonfire was made of a book of police laws and Uhlan stays and a corporal’s stick. It was followed the next year by the assassination of the dramatist and political spy Kotzebue by the student Sand.

Panic seized the reactionists, and the Austrian Minister Metternich, one of the chief pillars of absolutist principles in Europe, induced the King to commit himself to the Austrian system of repression. In 1821 the Reactionary party succeeded in getting the projected Constitution abandoned and the bureaucratic system of provincial estates established by royal warrant two years later (1823). The Prussian police with their spies then became omnipotent, and a remorseless persecution of all holding Liberal or democratic views ensued, the best-known writers on the popular side no less than the rank and file being arbitrarily arrested and kept in prison on any or no pretext. The amalgamation of the new districts into the Prussian bureaucratic system was not accomplished without resistance. The Rhine provinces especially, accustomed to easy-going government and light taxation under the old ecclesiastical princes, kicked vigorously against the Prussian jack-boot. The discontent was so widespread indeed that some concessions had to be made, such as the retention of the Code Napoleon. What created most resentment, however, was the enactment of 1814, which enforced compulsory universal military service throughout the monarchy. Friedrich Wilhelm also undertook to dragoon his subjects in the matter of religion, amalgamating the Lutherans with other reformed bodies, under the name of the “Evangelical Church.”

In foreign politics, in the earlier part of the nineteenth century, during the Napoleonic wars, Prussia, as yet hardly recovered from her defeats under Buonaparte, almost entirely followed the lead of Austria. But perhaps the most important measure of the Prussian Government at this time was the foundation of the famous Zollverein or Customs Union of various North German States in 1834. The far-reaching character of this measure was only shown later, being, in fact, the means and basis by and on which the political and military ascendancy of Prussia over all Germany was assured. Friedrich Wilhelm III, who died on June 7, 1840, was succeeded by his son, Friedrich Wilhelm IV. The new reign began with an appearance of Liberalism by a general amnesty for political offences. Reaction, however, soon raised its head again, and Friedrich Wilhelm IV, in spite of his varnish of philosophical and literary tastes, was soon seen to be au fond as reactionary as his predecessors. The conflict between the reaction of the Government and the now widely spread Liberal and democratic aspirations of the people resulted in Prussia (as it did under similar circumstances in other countries) in the outbreak of the revolution of 1848.

It is necessary at this stage to take a brief survey of the political history of the Germanic States of Europe generally from the time of the Peace of Vienna, in 1815, onwards, in order to understand fully the rôle played by the Prussian monarchy in German history since 1848; for from this time the history of Prussia becomes more and more bound up with that of the German peoples as a whole. During the Napoleonic wars Germany, as every one knows, was, generally speaking, in the grip of the French Imperial power. To follow the vicissitudes and fluctuations of fortune throughout Central Europe during these years lies outside our present purpose. We are here chiefly concerned with the political development from the Treaty of Vienna, as signed on June 9, 1815, onward. The Treaty of Vienna completed the work begun by Napoleon represented by the extinction of the mediaeval “Holy Roman Empire of the German nation” in 1806 in making an end of the political configuration of the German peoples which had grown up during the Middle Ages and survived, in a more or less decayed condition, since the Peace of Westphalia, which concluded the Thirty Years’ War. The three hundred separate States of which Germany had originally consisted were now reduced to thirty-nine, a number which, by the extinction of sundry minor governing lines, was before long further reduced to thirty-five. These States constituted themselves into a new German Confederation, with a Federal Assembly, meeting at Frankfurt-on-the-Main. The new Federal Council, or Assembly, however, soon revealed itself as but the tool of the princes and a bulwark of reaction.

The revolution of 1848 was throughout Germany an expression of popular discontent and of democratic and even, to a large extent, of republican aspirations. The princely authorities endeavoured to stem the wave of popular indignation and revolutionary enthusiasm by recognizing a provisional self-constituted body, and sanctioning the election of a national representative Parliament at Frankfurt in place of the effete Federal Council. The Archduke of Austria, who was elected head of the new, hastily organized National Government, was not slow to use his newly acquired power in the interests of reaction, thereby exciting the hostility of all the progressive elements in the Parliament of Frankfurt. When after some months it became obvious that the anti-Progressive parties had gained the upper hand alike in Austria and Prussia, the friction between the Democratic and Constitutional parties became increasingly bitter.

The Prussian Government meanwhile took advantage of the state of affairs to stir up the Schleswig-Holstein question, so-called, driving the Danes out of Schleswig, an insurrectionary movement in Holstein having been already suppressed by the Danish King. Prussia, alarmed by the attitude of the Powers, agreed to withdraw her troops from the occupied territories without consulting the Frankfurt Parliament, an act which involved Friedrich Wilhelm in conflict with the latter. The issues arising out of this dispute made it plain to every one that the Parliament of all Germany was impotent to enforce its decrees against one of the German Powers possessed of a preponderating military strength. By the end of 1848 the revolution in Vienna was completely crushed and a strongly reactionary Government appointed by the new Emperor. Meanwhile in Berlin the Junkers and the reactionaries generally had already again come into power, a crisis having been caused by the attempt of the democratic section of the Prussian National Assembly, convened by the King in March, to reorganize the army on a popular democratic basis. We need scarcely say the Prussian army has been the tool of Junkerdom and reaction ever since.

The last despairing attempt of the Frankfurt Parliament to give effect to the national Germanic unity, which all patriotic Germans professed to be eager for, was the offer of the Imperial crown to the King of Prussia. Against this act, however, nearly half the members i.e. all the advanced parties in the Assembly protested by refusing to take any part in it They had also declined to be associated with a previous motion for the exclusion of German Austria from the new national unity, in the interest of Prussian ascendancy. Both these reactionary proposals, as we all know, at a later date became the corner-stones of the new Prusso-German unity of Bismark’s creation. On this occasion, however, the Prussian King refused to accept the office at the hands of the impotent Frankfurt Assembly, which latter soon afterwards broke up and eventually “petered out.” Meanwhile Prussian troops, led by the reactionary military caste, were employed in the congenial task of suppressing popular movements with the sword in Baden, Saxony, and Prussia itself.

The two rival bulwarks of reaction, Prussia and Austria, were now so alarmed at the revolutionary dangers they had passed through that, for the nonce forgetting their rivalry, they cordially joined together in reviving, in the interests of the counter-revolution, the old reactionary Federal Assembly, which had never been formally dissolved, as it ought to have been on the election of the Frankfurt Parliament. Reaction now went on apace. Liberties were curtailed and rights gained in 1848 were abolished in most of the smaller States. Henceforth the Federal Assembly became the theatre of the two great rival powers of the Germanic Confederation. Both alike strove desperately for the hegemony of Germany. The strength of Prussia, of course, lay generally in the north, that of Austria in the south. Austria had the advantage of Prussia in the matter of prestige. Prussia, on the other hand, had the pull of Austria in the possession of the machinery of the Customs Union. In general, however, the dual control of the Germanic Confederation was grudgingly recognized by either party, and on occasion they acted together. This was notably the case in the Schleswig-Holstein question, which had been smouldering ever since 1848, and which came to a crisis in the Danish war of 1864, in which Austria and Prussia jointly took part.

Among the most reactionary of the Junker party in the Prussian Parliament of 1848 was one Count Otto Bismarck von Schoenhausen, subsequently known to history as Prince Bismarck (1815-98). This man strenuously opposed the acceptance of the Imperial dignity by the King of Prussia at the hands of the Frankfurt Parliament in 1849, on the ground that it was unworthy of the King of Prussia to accept any office at the hands of the people rather than at those of his peers, the princes of Germany. In 1851 Count von Bismarck was appointed a Prussian representative in the revived princely and aristocratic Federal Assembly. Here he energetically fought the hegemony hitherto exercised by Austria. He continued some years in this capacity, and subsequently served as Prussian Minister in St. Petersburg and again in Paris. In the autumn of 1862 the new King of Prussia, Wilhelm I, who had succeeded to the throne the previous year, called him back to take over the portfolio of Foreign Affairs and the leadership of the Cabinet. Shortly after his accession to power he arbitrarily closed the Chambers for refusing to sanction his Army Bill. His army scheme was then forced through by the royal fiat alone. On the reopening of the Schleswig-Holstein question, owing to the death of the King of Denmark, German nationalist sentiment was aroused, which Bismarck knew how to use for the aggrandisement of Prussia. The Danish war, in which the two leading German States collaborated and which ended in their favour, had as its result a disagreement of a serious nature between these rival, though mutually victorious, Powers.

In all these events the hand of Bismarck was to be seen. He it was who dominated completely Prussian policy from 1862 onwards. Full of his schemes for the aggrandisement of Prussia at the expense of Austria, he stirred up and worked this quarrel for all it was worth, the upshot being the Prusso-Austrian War (the so-called Seven Weeks’ War) of the summer of 1866. The war was brought about by the arbitrary dissolution of the German Confederation i.e. the Federal Assembly in which, owing to the alarm created by Prussian insolence and aggression, Austria had the backing of the majority of the States. This step was followed by Bismarck’s dispatching an ultimatum to Hanover, Saxony, and Hesse Cassel respectively, all of which had voted against Prussia in the Federal Assembly, followed, on its non-acceptance, by the dispatch of Prussian troops to occupy the States in question. Hard on this act of brutal violence came the declaration of war with Austria.

At Koeniggratz the Prussian army was victorious over the Austrians, and henceforth the hegemony of Central Europe was decided in favour of Prussia. Austria, under the Treaty of Prague (August 20, 1866), was completely excluded from the new organization of German States, in which Prussia i.e. Bismarck was to have a free hand. The result was the foundation of the North German Confederation, under the leadership of Prussia. It was to have a common Parliament, elected by universal suffrage and meeting in Berlin. The army, the diplomatic representation, the control of the postal and telegraphic services, were to be under the sole control of the Prussian Government. The North German Confederation comprised the northern and central States of Germany. The southern States Bavaria, Baden, Wuertemberg, etc. although not included, had been forced into a practical alliance with Prussia by treaties. The Customs Union was extended until it embraced nearly the whole of Germany. Prussian aggression in Luxemburg produced a crisis with France in 1867, though the growing tension between Prussia and France was tided over on this occasion. But Bismarck only bided his time.

The occasion was furnished him by the question of the succession to the Spanish throne, in July 1870. By means of a falsified telegram Bismarck precipitated war, in which Prussia was joined by all the States of Germany. The subsequent course of events is matter of recent history. The establishment of the new Prusso-German empire by the crowning of Wilhelm I at Versailles, with the empire made hereditary in the Hohenzollern family, completed the work of Bismarck and the setting of the Prussian jack-boot on the necks of the German peoples. The Prussian military and bureaucratic systems were now extended to all Germany in other words, the rest of the German peoples were made virtually the vassals and slaves of the Prussian monarch. This time the King of Prussia received the Imperial crown at the hands of the kings, princes, and other hereditary rulers of the various German States. Bismarck was graciously pleased to bestow unity and internal peace a Prussian peace upon Germany on condition of its abasement before the Prussian corporal’s stick and police-truncheon. Such was the united Germany of Bismarck. Germany meant for Bismarck and his followers Prussia, and Prussia meant their own Junker and military caste, under the titular headship of the Hohenzollern.

Yet, strange to say, the peoples of Germany willingly consented, under the influence of the intoxication of a successful war, to have their independence bartered away to Prussia by their rulers. In this united Germany of Bismarck a Germany united under Prussian despotism they naively saw the realization of the dream of their thinkers and poets since the time of the Napoleonic wars which had become more than ever an inspiration from 1848 onwards of an ideal unity of all German-speaking peoples as a national whole. It is unquestionable that many of these thinkers and poets would have been horrified at the Prusso-Bismarckian “unity” of “blood and iron,” It was not for this, they would have said, that they had laboured and suffered.

As a conclusion to the present chapter I venture to give a short summary of the internal, and especially of the economic, development of Prussia since the Franco-German War from an article which appeared in the English Review for December 1914, by Mr. H.M. Hyndman and the present writer:

“From 1871 onwards Prussianized Germany, by far the best-educated, and industrially and commercially the most progressive, country in Europe, with the enormous advantage of her central position, was, consciously and unconsciously, making ready for her next advance. The policy of a good understanding with Russia, maintained for many years, to such an extent that, in foreign affairs, Berlin and St. Petersburg were almost one city, enabled Germany to feel secure against France, while she was devoting herself to the extension of her rural and urban powers of production. Never at any time did she neglect to keep her army in a posture of offence. All can now see the meaning of this.

“Militarism is in no sense necessarily economic. But the strength of Germany for war was rapidly increased by her success in peace. From the date of the great financial crisis of 1874, and the consequent reorganization of her entire banking system, Germany entered upon that determined and well-thought-out attempt to attain pre-eminence in the trade and commerce of the world of which we have not yet seen the end. From 1878, when the German High Commissioner, von Rouleaux, stigmatized the exhibits of his countrymen as ‘cheap and nasty,’ special efforts were made to use the excellent education and admirable powers of organization of Germany in this field. The Government rendered official and financial help in both agriculture and manufacture. Scientific training, good and cheap before, was made cheaper and better each year. Railways were used not to foster foreign competition, as in Great Britain, by excessive rates of home freight, but to give the greatest possible advantage to German industry in every department. In more than one rural district the railways were worked at an apparent loss in order to foster home production, from which the nation derived far greater advantage than such apparent sacrifice entailed. The same system of State help was extended to shipping until the great German liners, one of which, indeed, was actually subsidized by England, were more than holding their own with the oldest and most celebrated British companies.

“Protection, alike in agriculture and in manufacture, bound the whole empire together in essentially Imperial bonds. Right or wrong in theory which it is not here necessary to discuss there can be no doubt whatever that this policy entirely changed the face of Germany, and rendered her our most formidable competitor in every market. Emigration, which had been proceeding on a vast scale, almost entirely ceased. The savings banks were overflowing with deposits. The position of the workers was greatly improved. Not only were German Colonies secured in Africa and Asia, which were more trouble than they were worth, but very profitable commerce with our own Colonies and Dependencies was growing by leaps and bounds, at the expense of the out-of-date but self-satisfied commercialists of Old England. Hence arose a trade rivalry, against which we could not hope to contend successfully in the long run, except by a complete revolution in our methods of education and business, to which neither the Government nor the dominant class would consent.

“This remarkable advance in Germany, also, was accompanied by the establishment of a system of banking, specially directed to the expansion of national industry and commerce, a system which was clever enough to use French accumulations, borrowed at a low rate of interest, through the German Jews who so largely controlled French financial institutions, in order still further to extend their own trade. It was an admirably organized attempt to conquer the world-market for commodities, in which the Government, the banks, the manufacturers and the shipowners all worked for the common cause. Meanwhile, both French and English financiers carefully played the game of their business opponents, and the great English banks devoted their attention chiefly to fostering speculation on the Stock Exchange a policy of which the Germans took advantage, just before the outbreak of war, to an extent not by any means as yet fully understood.

“Thus, at the beginning of the present year, in spite of the withdrawal, since the Agadir affair, of very large amounts of French capital from the German market, Germany had attained to such a position that only the United States stood on a higher plane in regard to its future in the world of competitive commerce. And this great and increasing economic strength was, for war purposes, at the disposal of the Prussian militarists, if they succeeded in getting the upper hand in politics and foreign affairs.”